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There are lots of recipes online that suggest mimicking commercial bread ovens by using a water bath and or ice cubes to create a hot, steamy baking environment. I have always been very wary of doing this with my domestic electric oven for a number of reasons, and only spray my french loaves on top with a very fine water mist. The risks, as I see them, are as follows:

  1. Potentially, any cooler water splashing on the hot glass oven door could cause it to shatter
  2. Any steam penetration could have an adverse affect on the live circuit boards or controls causing them to malfunction e.g. a partial or full short circuit
  3. The enamel coating and other parts of the oven itself etc. could be more liable to corrosion

Am I being too conservative here? I would think that if a domestic oven failed due to such usage, the manufacturer would refuse to repair it under a regular domestic warranty as the oven was not used according to the manual.

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    Not helpful directly, For anyone with this problem in the process of getting a new oven anyway: there are affordable oven-steamer combinations out there. My parents recently got one and it works just as expected.
    – Hobbamok
    Jun 10 at 8:57
  • You should try out Jim Lahey's "cook the bread in a cast iron pot" method. You get an oven within an oven, and the steam from the cooking bread gives the crust a great texture. amazon.com/My-Bread-Revolutionary-No-Work-No-Knead/dp/…
    – Flydog57
    Jun 11 at 2:14
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I think you are being too conservative. The oven door and glass in there is built to handle some temperature differences. When someone opens an oven door and sets a room temperature pan or cooking container on it while moving racks or other food around, I can't think it would be THAT different that water splashing around. If this were an issue, we'd probably hear about it, a lot.

Pretty much nothing you put into the over starts out as completely dry. Steam gets released from food all the time. Ovens are built to handle steam.

I've used water baths for stuff like cheesecakes. It's very common and if an oven failed because of this, it would be a defect in the oven, and covered under warranty.

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    I'd still avoid splashing cold water on the door just in case, but I splash near-boiling water on the door every time I bake bread, when I pour it into the tray on the oven floor
    – Chris H
    Jun 9 at 19:27
  • 6
    "Steam gets released from food all the time." This. Could be much more prominent. Many dishes release just as much water as a tray filled with water, like lasagna with lots of sauce on top, or any pie which has a filling that is liquid before it's baked and many more.
    – Nobody
    Jun 10 at 10:02
  • Regarding steam, there are plenty of recipes for things such as cheesecakes which are baked in water baths, as well as for braising meat in big pots of liquid in the oven. I'd be surprised if a reputable tv cooking program or cookbook would include something that would destroy your oven.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 11 at 9:34
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Turns out my self-cleaning gas oven is designed to have water in the bottom so as to use the steam generated to clean the oven. I cannot think of why this would cause a problem in your oven. The electrical elements are very protected from water or steam, no worries there. The meaningful electronics are all in the top back where you hit the buttons, completely isolated from the oven. Nope. Can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't be A-OK with adding water. Personally, I'm glad you put the idea into my head as I foresee some steamy bread baking in my future.

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Regarding the safety of the door specifically:

Oven door glass is made of tempered glass. This does have a maximum temperature differential that is near reasonable cooking temperatures, so it is possible to exceed. This can cause the glass to shatter and/or explode impressively. That being said, tempered glass shatters into less dangerous pieces than regular glass. (Which is one reason it's used so commonly.) The worst injuries I'd expect would be burns and small cuts where the pieces hit exposed skin. Not great, but not life-threatening.

If you are worried about safety here, my suggestion would be to stick to almost-boiling water instead of cold water when adding water to a preheated oven. That would basically be 200 F water instead of 40 F water, which gives you 160 F fewer degrees of difference between the water and the oven door.

(The things you actually need to watch out for are self-clean oven cycles (these will cause marginal oven door glass to fail) and pushing pans or racks into the oven by closing the door. If they touch the glass, that could scratch the glass, which weakens the glass over time.)

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    I have seen an oven door fail. It went with quite a bang but not into shards, as you say. That was warming something with the wrong mode selected (grill instead of oven) and it ignited, so we also had flames to contend with
    – Chris H
    Jun 10 at 16:16

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